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Destruction of 100,000 Fire Arms in Rio de Janeiro

This June 24th, nearly 100,00 guns were destroyed in Rio de Janeiro. About 20,000 people were present at the gun destruction ceremony, organized by the Rio de Janeiro state government in cooperation with Viva Rio. The act was Rio's contribution to a Global Action, commended by IANSA, to divulge and show support for the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, to be held next month in New York.

The act also symbolically represented Brazilians' support for a law prohibiting the sale of firearms to civilians, currently being debated before Congress, where it faces strong opposition by a powerful gun lobby.

The guns occupied 400 meters squared of space on a bayside cement walkway, and were placed on sheets of iron before being run over repeatedly by a bulldozer. As the great machine toiled back and forth, a shower of rose petals dropped by helicopters fluttered down over the cheering crowd. Now the guns are to be melted down and made into a sculpture symbolizing hopes for peace in Rio de Janeiro, known in Brazil as the cidade maravilhosa, or "marvelous city".

Dutch ambassador Arend Meerburg, international coordinator of arms destruction events before the UN Conference, called the arms destruction model adopted in Rio "exemplary." The ambassador praised not only the unprecedented quantity of arms destroyed, but also the widespread popular participation that distinguished the educational function of the event. Further, the collaborative nature of the event serves to reinforce the notion that the state should actively seek the participation of civil society in order to best address public safety concerns.

In the "Aterro Park" adjacent to the destruction site, various activities took place simultaneously, highlighting the concept of a culture of peace. Children and artists painted panels for peace; volunteers distributed information about the movement of women against firearms; musical groups and choruses from Rio's poor communities (or favelas) performed, and religious groups circulated. The culmination of these parallel events was a grand march towards the site where the arms were destroyed.

Several distinguished guests were involved, including the Rio de Janeiro State Governor Anthony Garotinho, the National Secretary of Justice, Elizabeth Süssekind, the director of Viva Rio, Rubem César Fernandes, ambassadors of countries that support disarmament, IANSA Coordinator Sally Joss, and Rebecca Peters, who coordinated the disarmament campaign in Australia. Members of the first Workshop of MERCOSUR NGOs on Small Arms Reduction were also present. The workshop, organized by Viva Rio, almost duplicated the number of NGOs from South America that have joined IANSA, ireasing from 12 to 20 NGOs.

©2001 world council of churches | remarks to webeditor